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THEN THE END WILL COME

Matthew 24:1-24:14
Key Verse: 24:14

Nobody knows with certainty what will happen tomorrow, not to mention in the future world. But Jesus knew with certainty how the end of the age would come and spoke about it without any ambiguity. In addition he told his disciples how they had to live in the end times. Through today’s passage we can think about some signs of the end of the age and Jesus’ hope and direction his disciples should have.

First, destruction of the temple (1-2). Look at verse 1. “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.” The temple was Herod’s temple for which the construction took more than 80 years. The building was adorned with beautiful stones and full of gold inserted in between stones. The building was glittering and impressive. At that time it was one of the awesome buildings in the world. Most of Jesus’ disciples were from Galilee. They could not just walk away as Jesus did when they saw the temple building. In Mark’s gospel they exclaimed, “Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” They made consecutive “wows”. However, Jesus was walking away from the temple. They could not understand why Jesus did not take a moment to see the marvelous building. So they came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.

How did Jesus respond? Look at verse 2. “Do you see all these things?...I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” In Matthew’s description, Jesus did not even utter the word, “buildings”, but just “things”, while in Mark Jesus said, “Do you see all these great buildings?” To Jesus the temple buildings were nothing more than “things”. Then Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Jesus wanted his disciple to have a truthful view of the temple building and also definitely of all the glittering things of the world. In other words, Jesus wanted his disciples to have the right view of material things. The temple buildings would be totally destroyed. Every stone would be thrown down flat. This was Jesus’ vivid prediction of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The prediction was precisely fulfilled when the Roman army conquered the city A.D. 70. In an attempt to get the gold placed in between stones, the soldiers took away every stone in search for the gold. In this way the temple was completely destroyed.

At that time the Jews could not even imagine that such a temple would be demolished. To them the destruction of the temple was thought to be the destruction of everything that would come at the end of the age. The temple was the symbol of materialism and human development. As the disciples were awed and overwhelmed by the temple buildings, so can we at the material power and human civilization of modern times. Ever since man built the Babel tower to reach the heavens, such an attempt for human empire has been unceasing until now. At the very region the Babel tower had been built, the Dubai tower was built and now stands imposingly and sky-high. Human civilization seems to reach the heavens. But we should have the right view of such materials and human power. All these things will turn to the dust as Jesus said, “…not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”

Second, the beginning of birth pains (3-8). Look at verse 3. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” To the disciples’ mind, temple destruction, Christ’s coming again and the age’s end were all related. The question was confidential hidden in their hearts, so is in the hearts of all people.

How did Jesus answer? Look at verses 4 and 5. “Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’” The end time is characterized by deception (11, 24). All those who were deceived even one time know how terrible deception is. No one wants to be deceived. Then why is there deception? Where did it come from? Jesus said of the devil, “…he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). Lying is the devil’s native language. He leads the whole world astray by his deception. In Matthew chapter 2 Herod told a lie to the Magi disguising himself as a true worshipper (2:8). In chapter 28 the chief priests along with the elders fabricated a lie that Jesus’ disciples stole the dead body of Jesus and let the lie be widely circulated (28:13-14). There has been endless battle between the truth and the lie in human history. At the end times this battle will be even severer and deception, more prevailing. The greatest deception, the deception of all deceptions, will be the deception concerning Christ. Self-asserting Christs or false Christs will appear. Many will be deceived when they do not know the Bible correctly.

Look at verses 6-7a. “You will hear of the wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Human history has been the history of fighting, since men were driven out of the Garden of Eden. But at the end times it will be so more. The two great wars, World War 1 and World War II, broke out in the 20th century. Local wars, big and small alike, have been unceasing, the wars between the Jews and the Arabs, the wars between tribes and between ethnic groups. Those who have experienced wars say that there should be no more wars in the world because of the tragic consequences of wars. But such things would be inevitable.

And there will be earthquakes and famines in various places. We remember the famine in Somalia last year, which was the worst drought in 60 years and attacked several millions of people. And in North Korea a quarter of the whole population, 6 million people are in malnutrition. We also hear about earthquake often: just in February this year there was a big earthquake in Philippines which demanded 105 death tolls. Whenever we see earthquakes, we come to know no building is safe and all the human establishments become helpless and useless. What did Jesus say of all these, deception, people’s fighting and natural disasters? Did Jesus say, “All these are God’s punishment upon mankind” or “All these are unpreventable future events”? No. He said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Birth pains signify the gaining of new life and the new world to come. Once Jesus tried to help his disciples understand his resurrection, he said, “A woman giving birth has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (Jn 16:21). Paul said in Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” When a woman has birth pains, she is sure that her baby is coming in the matter of time. Likewise, when Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains,” he knew with certainty that the new world would definitely come. He was not just guessing or merely having a positive perspective or a bright hope for the future. He was talking about what he already knew. Because Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains, we can believe this. We thank God for the glorious new world to come after pains and groans and travails in the present world. May we keep this view of Jesus for the coming new world in our hearts.

Third, the gospel of the kingdom being preached (9-14). Look at verse 9. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” When the world is in travail, Christians will suffer persecution and hatred by all nations, simply because they believe in Christ Jesus and love him. At the time of persecution, sadly many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. People will become more and more individualistic and selfish. In that environment it will be very difficult for one to keep his faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus, however, promises, “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” We remember that Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to stand firm on the gospel of Christ Jesus, his death and resurrection.

Look at verse 14. “And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Here we can think of several things. Firstly, the gospel of the kingdom is the only hope for mankind. The gospel is not the gospel of this world, but the gospel of the kingdom. It is the gospel of the kingdom of heaven through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel of Jesus is the only way of salvation. Apostle Peter said being fill with the Holy Spirit before the Sanhedrin, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). People of this world have strived to find something new and something good. But God has already given them what is really good, the good news of the gospel of salvation. This gospel is the only good news as long as the earth endures. Thus the gospel of the kingdom is the only hope for the people of this earthly kingdom; it is so forevermore as the end comes.

Secondly, the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world. Here we see God’s will and way of working. The sovereign God who is in control will lead the whole world in this direction, in the direction of the gospel being preached. When one realizes that the end of his life is approaching, he will do the most important thing amid many things to be done in his life. Likewise, at the end times the most imperative has to be done. To the sovereign God the gospel preaching has been the most important work. It will be much truer as the end time comes. So he leads the whole world in this course. The trend of the world is seemingly flowing toward material abundance and the amelioration of human’s physical life. But according to Jesus the trend of the world is actually streaming toward the preaching of the gospel. This is the spiritual trend of the world. Those who have a good business sense are aware of where the business world is going, and invest their money and possessions in that flow. Similarly, when we are aware of the spiritual trend of the world, we can invest our life in the stream of the gospel of the kingdom that will be preached in the whole world. However, when we confront time and again the practical difficulties in preaching the gospel in this unbelieving world and people’s negative response, it is not easy to keep this life direction. Yet, we believe that what Jesus said is quite true regardless of our present situations. Because of Jesus’ words, we can newly set our direction in this grand and global flow of gospel-preaching. Then our lives will be most fruitful and successful in God’s sight in the end. As for St. Paul, he preached the gospel as of first importance in his life (1 Cor 15:3). And he said to his spiritual son Timothy as his last word, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word…” (2 Tim 4:2). The preaching of the gospel is to be a testimony, in other translation (KJV) a witness. In preaching the gospel one’s life is involved, testifying to what has been true to him. It is not merely preaching the knowledge. One’s life-giving spirit is to be there.

Thirdly, the gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Here we see God’s shepherd heart for all nations. The gospel of the kingdom is for all nations. No nation is out of God’s concern and heart. This is the reason Jesus said to his disciples after his resurrection, “…go and make disciples of all nations…” The gospel will be preached to all nations. One of our prayer topics is to send out missionaries to 141 nations unreached by UBF. He wants to save as many people as possible.

In verse 14 Jesus said lastly, “Then the end will come.” The end will not come randomly, all of sudden. When the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all nations, then the end will come. The end is God’s hand. As we thought of, the end is the opening of a new glorious world. The end should come. God will bring this world to an end when the gospel is preached to all nations of the world. The gospel preachers are his coworkers to end the world.

We thank God for helping us to know how the end comes. The things of the world will turn to dust. All the sufferings and travails of the world are the beginning of the birth pains. When the gospel is preached to the whole world, then the end will come. May we not be troubled and swayed by the seeming trend of the world. But riding on the spiritual trend of the world we may set our life direction on gospel preaching, being sure of the gospel of the kingdom as the only way of salvation and participating God’s shepherd heart for the whole world.

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